The Social Dilemma: What are we to do?
I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix and it was interesting. I couldn't help but give a side-eye to the former employees of giant tech companies who stayed to make enough money to retire at 30, 35 or 40, before suddenly ‘seeing’ the light. That said, the documentary is very informative and a good number of people have no idea about the issues that are addressed so, if you have not seen the documentary yet, please go and watch it.
I am writing this because I read something that genuinely scared me. The author said that he ran past a woman on his running route and the app he uses to track his fitness and performance, tagged the woman. He clicked on her face and it showed her full name and a map of her running route(effectively showing that she lives around the area). As a woman, this is terrifying.
Yes, I know I don’t run. Shut up. But I could run tomorrow. Any woman could unwittingly download that app and use it to track their fitness meanwhile, some sicko could use that same app, to find out the best time and place to murder us. Yes, there is a separate privacy setting options to opt-out of this kind of data sharing but this should be explained in clear terms and bold print. Also, if I can trust you with my data, why shouldn't I be able to sleep well knowing that you will make sure that I don't regret it? If I want to see other athletes around me, do I need to know their government names and their regular routes?
The issue of data privacy is not just something to be brushed off. My generation is the last one who remember what it was like to live without being dependent on technology and there is no going back from this. Our dependence on technology will only continue to increase. So, the question is when will people who make these decisions, see that ethical responsibility should always trump profit? It is so unfair that we have now grown to depend on technology despite the grave flaws and glaring dangers that it poses but the decision-makers keep pushing the boundaries.
It is imperative to continue to talk about data privacy and tech ethics until enough people are aware and until the decision-makers start effecting changes but until then, we can all make the choice to rely on only those companies who give us at least a semblance of choice in the matter. For now, unless you want to completely stay offline for everything, we have no choice but to deal with the ads and algorithms that tell us what to think. My only hope is that in the race to make a profit, tech companies will not forget that we are supposed to be the ‘product’ and if you don’t ask the right questions when you are creating, your technology will inevitably cause more harm than good.